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New Practitioners Network
Grooming Tips: SOAP for New Practitioners

by Sylvia Walsh, PharmD Candidate (2017), Rosalind Franklin University of Medicine and Science College of Pharmacy; Milena McLaughlin, PharmD, MSc, BCPS-AQ ID, AAHIVP, (Mentor) Assistant Professor/HIV/ID Clinical Pharmacist, Midwestern University/Northwestern Memorial Hospital

As a technician with a background in community pharmacy, I have interacted with several new pharmacists. To this day I remember a when a new pharmacy graduate, third day on the job, told me that she had no idea “pharmacy was going to be like this”. In the hope of bringing more transparency to the transition from student to practitioner, I have interviewed current pharmacy residents, residency trained pharmacists, and community pharmacists on what they wish they had known as a student. Hopefully these “SOAP” note tips of the most common themes from my interviews will be helpful for students and new practitioners.

Organization Membership Discounts
S/O: Several organizations offer students discounted or free registration for local or national meetings. By taking advantage of these opportunities at the student level, one can determine which organizations they would like to be involved with after graduation. Attending these meetings provides great networking opportunities not only for residency, but for future employment. At these meetings, several pharmacy organizations also provide workshops to students on residency, CV preparation, and interview skills.

A/P: Organizations for fourth year students and new practitioners include the American College of Clinical Pharmacy (ACCP), the American Pharmacists Association (APhA), the American Society of Health-System Pharmacists (ASHP), and the Illinois Council of Health-System Pharmacists (ICHP). ACCP offers CV tips and on-demand CV review. APhA has a new practitioner mentor program that will connect mentors based on the mentee's needs, a two year discounted membership bundle including a NAPLEX review book, and one year of liability insurance. The ASHP New Practitioners Forum provides practical career development tools, programs, and opportunities for growth that aid in the transition from student to pharmacist. ICHP provides CV review and a New Practitioners Network to help students transition into the real world of pharmacy. Attend as many local and national meetings as your schedule and resources allow to help focus your interests post-graduation.

ASHP Midyear
S/O: The ASHP Midyear can be overwhelming and hectic, so make sure to be prepared. ASHP and ACCP provide residency and fellowship directories that provide brief descriptions of the programs and direct links to the programs. The annual ASHP Midyear Clinical Meeting and Exhibition is intended for current fourth year pharmacy students. However, there will be some P1 - P3 pharmacy students who attend as well.

A/P: If you want to get the real scoop on a residency program, spend more time talking with the current residents. You will be surprised by their honesty and frankness about their program. Narrow your residency list prior to the meeting and research each program. Come with relevant and concise questions (the answers to which should not be readily found on the program’s website!). The ASHP Midyear is a great opportunity for networking. Network with everyone you meet. Introduce yourself as a current fourth year pharmacy student interested in the specific program. It is a good idea to have business cards and CVs available in case you are asked for these. Dress professionally and remember that this is your time to find out to which programs you want to apply!

S/O: You are interviewing the program as much as they are interviewing you. The entire day is an interview, so it is crucial to always act professional and be polite to everyone. ACCP and ASHP have interview prep materials with questions available online. And always remember, pharmacy is a small world!

A/P: Practice interviewing with another person to deliver short and concise responses. Research the program beforehand and be knowledgeable about what types of rotations and opportunities that program offers. Be ready to answer questions regarding clinical scenarios and have a list of questions to ask of the program as well. Develop questions that are not easily found online to ask the interviewer. Once the interview is over send a thank you card or email.
S/O: The NAPLEX exam was recently changed from an adaptive format to a standardized exam. The amount of questions also increased from 185 to 200. This change increased the amount of time allotted for the exam from 4 hours and 15 minutes to 6 hours. Registration for the NAPLEX begins on November 1, 2016 for 2017 graduates. There are several types of NAPLEX prep materials available (e.g. online courses, textbooks, and mobile apps), so it is important to know your learning style. To begin studying in the month leading up to the exam is not sufficient preparation. Ideally, one should be studying throughout the four years of pharmacy school. To prepare for the NAPLEX it is important to have confidence. Pharmacy experience is helpful in preparation for the NAPLEX.

A/P: Regardless of the amount of pharmacy experience one has, it is still important to take the exam seriously. The NAPLEX is a long exam and test taking practice will help build stamina. It is also a good idea to scope out the test taking facility before the exam and make sure to give yourself adequate time to get there. Start studying early and create a study group with weekly review sessions. Make sure to familiarize yourself with the above mentioned changes prior to taking the exam. 

Working as a New Practitioner
S/O: As a student, one cannot grasp the responsibility and the impact an error can have on patient care. Pharmacists have the ability to intervene in order to improve safety and patient outcomes. 

A/P: The transition to pharmacy practitioner can be shocking at first. However, it is important to remember that you have the tools to be successful as a practicing pharmacist. In the end, the pharmacist is in charge and is the final quality assurance check. Pharmacy technicians are a great resource and are often well versed in the areas in which they work. Also, there are several resources available for new practitioners that offer guidance and advice. Wherever you end up, it is important to establish a support structure and remember your strengths.

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